Plotting and Pacing in Your Middle Grade Adventure

30th June 2021
Article
3 min read
Edited
9th February 2022

In this extract from his article for the Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2022, bestselling author Christopher Edge shares his passion for plotting.

Christopher Edge

Adventure is just bad planning.’ So said the great Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen who was the first man to reach both the North and South poles but who, as far as I know, never wrote a single word of children’s fiction – so I really wouldn’t go listening to him when it comes to planning your middle-grade adventure.

So how can you craft a middle-grade adventure that will keep these readers turning the pages? The first thing to consider is plot. Now plot is just another name for story – it’s the sequence of events that take place in a narrative.

And the plotting stage is where you decide exactly what these events will be and the best way to structure them. This is a stage of writing that I love. For me, stories rarely land in my brain fully formed. The initial spark of inspiration might arrive in the form of a character, a situation, or a setting. For The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day, I had an image of a girl opening her front door to find an infinite darkness outside.

The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day by Christopher Edge

But how could I be sure that the plot I was building was taking the right shape? Stories are about change and change is driven by character. Examining your protagonist’s motives can help you to build your plot, as you consider the actions they might pursue as they try to attain their goal.

Every scene should have a purpose that drives the plot forward; deciding what this is can help you to focus on the details that matter when you start writing. Begin each scene as far into the action as possible and as soon as the purpose is achieved that should be your signal to end the scene. Each scene should contain the seeds of the next and, as the story moves forward, you want to keep raising the stakes – but you also need to vary the rhythm of the story so that it doesn’t become predictable for the reader.

Writing itself can be an adventure, so don’t be afraid to follow your own path. There will be trials and challenges along the way, and you may even feel lost at times as you hack through the thickets of a first draft – but always try to take pleasure in the journey.

Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2022

This is an abridged version of an article taken from the Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2022, available to purchase now from Bloomsbury.com


Christopher Edge is an award-winning author whose novels for children include Twelve Minutes to Midnight (2012), The Black Crow Conspiracy (2014), The Many Worlds of Albie Bright (2016), The Jamie Drake Equation (2017), The Infinitive Lives of Maisie Day (2018) and The Longest Night of Charlie Noon (2019), all published by Nosy Crow. His latest novel is Space Oddity (Chicken House 2021). He also is an experienced teacher, the author of guides to creative writing for children and teenagers, How to Write Your Best Story Ever! (OUP 2015) and How to be a Young #Writer (OUP 2017), and a freelance publisher and education consultant. For more information see his website www.christopheredge.co.uk. Follow him on Twitter @edgechristopher.

Writing stage

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